The Karmic Law and the Mirror
Every time I think that I should launch right into a discussion of the fuller significance of what Algis Mickunas calls “technocratic shamanism”, and particularly as this pertains to the issue of propaganda and perception management, it seems I’m always required to try to explain something else, or something related, first. I’ve found in my present studies that some sociological works on branding and advertising, or propaganda more generally, are uneven and inconsistent, and fail in the end to provide a satisfactory account of the meaning of branding or propaganda for one reason — they do not understand the karmic law, the law of action and reaction.
I’m thinking especially of some books I’ve read on advertising which, while containing some very useful information about the subject, never seem to come to any real conclusion or decision about it, or come to erroneous ones: Michael Schudson’s Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion, Stephen Fox’s The Mirror Makers, or Martin Mayers Madison Avenue, USA are just three that come to mind. They wrestle with the fundamental question, whether propaganda, commercial or otherwise, is “Mirror” or “Mind-Bender”, and generally conclude that it is the former moreso than the latter — that what Schudson calls “non-price advertising”, which is always surrounded by an aura of the “fraudulent” in his judgement, nonetheless mirrors the values of culture. Stephen Fox’s book seems even more inconclusive: half-way through the book he takes the position that advertising is both “mirror” and “mind-bender”, but by the end he has opted completely for “mirror”.
This is, as you may recognise, a problem of the dualistic mode of reasoning of the mental-rational consciousness structure with its “either/or” type logic. The karmic law of action does not permit the minds of men to be lawgiver to it, in that sense. The karmic law is not a dualism but a polarity — an issue not of “either/or” but of “both/and”. The karmic law is, in some ways, the law of the paradoxical. Whether propaganda is “mirroring” or “mind-bending” is the wrong question to put in the context of the karmic law. It is both. In our contemporary terms, we would describe it as a cybernetic process, or servo-mechanism, of feedback and control. To suggest that advertising simply “mirrors” is to say it is only feedback. The whole point of surveys, questionnaires, polls, focus groups, though, is to test the effectiveness of the propaganda message, and to adjust the messsage until it results in the desired outcome that the propagandist wants. What is “feedback and control”? Well, isn’t it a reflection of the fundamental dynamics of consciousness itself — as both attentional and intentional? This is the yin and yang of awareness, the fundamental polarity of all energetic processes and dynamics. The karmic law is just this consciousness of the law of energy as polarity.
It’s surprising, really, how few people understand this about the karmic law, especially in a Judeo-Christian culture which has developed a very distorted understanding of the “spiritual” which is perpetuated and reinforced everyday by propaganda and advertising, and even as “the common sense”. Don’t these aforementioned authors understand that mirrors also distort? The know very little about the history and development of mirrors (and early obsessions with trying to develop a “true mirror”). Mirrors are, in fact, often associated with the magical. There are also a couple of good histories of the mirror and its influence on culture and perception. And the myth of Narcissus and Echo is all about mirroring and reflection. And yet, despite their conclusions (mostly, that advertising and propaganda is only often a “harmless” reflection of the cultural milieu) they never seem to make the link between branding, as largely took off in the 1950s, and Lasch’s “culture of narcissism” as he described it a generation later, when the problem of human narcissism, now exacerbated greatly, couldn’t be ignored any longer.
The Abrahamic religions all understand the karmic law only in terms of even rewards and punishments meted upon people by a whimsical and even arbitrary and vengeful “God” — Heaven and Hell for example — which is still incorporated in the notion of the “Invisible Hand” of the so-called “free market” — something that results in fetish and superstition. Even among Eastern cultures, where the karmic law is taken for granted, it seems little understood as the impersonal law of energy — act like a snake-in-the-grass and you will be literally reborn as a snake-in-the-grass. Or, act like a mouse when you are required to act like a lion, and you will be punished by being reborn as a little trembling mouse. “Good karma” and “bad karma”. But it’s really more like oil and vinegar (that’s a bit cryptic, but I’ll get around to that later — the symbolism and alchemy of oil and vinegar).
“Live by the sword, perish by the sword”, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, “as you do unto others, so will be done unto you”, “judgement is mine, saith the Lord” and so on and so forth. Or whether it’s the pagan Greek understanding of hybris (as sin) and Nemesis (as atonement or rectification for transgression), it’s all the karmic law of action and reaction, and not about reward and punishment. The karmic law of action and reaction is very much implied in Seth’s dictum that “you create the reality you know”. Your thoughts and acts stick to you, for they are immediately manifested in your life-world as “projections”, but which are more properly “reflections”. In some way or another, the quality of your moods, thoughts, feelings, beliefs manifest as acts, condition and shape your experience of “reality” and they stick to you because they are your reality. You are their father or mother, and they are your children. And the manner and mode of their manifestation is what is called intent or “intentionality” of consciousness. In a sense, we are all artists, and, as the Buddha put it, we are either skillful or unskillful in that respect.
In more abstract terms, we can say that the karmic law is simply a law of equilibrium — it’s an expression of the energetic flux in its attempt to reach equilibrium. The process of enantiodromia, or reversal at the extremity of action, is an expression of the karmic law, and is involved in what we call “ironic reversal”, “unintended consequence”, “revenge effect”, “perverse outcome” or “blowback” and so on — pretty much all having the same meaning of “Nemesis” and “reversal of fortune”. But, this notion of “reward” and “punishment” for good and evil acts is simply the human ego’s interpretation of what is a completely impersonal process at play in the cosmos — the attempt of energy to reach a condition of balance or relative equilibrium. And thinking is also doing, and is an energetic process as well, but here the achievement of relative equilibrium is what we call “equanimity”. And the highest state of achievement of this “equanimity” is what Jean Gebser calls “integral consciousness”. For all practical purposes, “integral consciousness” and “equanimity” are the same issue. Equanimity is the balance of Blake’s “four Zoas”, which are the manifestation of the cosmic dynamic and its energetic principles in the human form.
The karmic law is also reflected in Norse mythology, where Wotan and Thor chase each other across the sky in an endless cycle of revenge for deeds done the law of revenge being called the lex talionis — that is, until Ragnarok, or the Doom of the Powers, also known as “The Twilight of the Gods”. And whether it is expressed through the magical structure of consciousness, or the mythical structure of consciousness, or the mental-rational structure of consciousness, it is always known albeit in different ways. And without it, the cosmos would not be a Kosmos but a Kaos.
The karmic law is why we say: “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it”, which is, of course, an intuition about ironic reversal in the ways described (perverse outcome, revenge effect, unintended consequence, blowback, etc). In the mythological consciousness, “the wages of sin is death” corresponds to the revenge effect of Nemesis as the reward for hybris — the reversal as a result of an act exceeding a limit or overstepping a boundary, otherwise called “enantiodromia” , which is a reversal of polarity. Athena, goddess of reason, becomes the Gorgon’s head, paralysis of the will. Within the mental rational consciousness, its expressed as Newton’s law of motion — that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s just a general law of energy in whatever way energy manifests itself.
I needed to touch on the karmic law before delving further into the meaning of “technocratic shamanism” because propaganda is also action, and it is also subject to the karmic law, which is not a law about “either/or” but of “both/and”. And the law which states that “those who live by the sword, perish by the sword” is as true of propaganda as it is of anything else. It is not “harmless” even in the form of branding.